Itâ€™s 5pm on a February Monday, and you have a rare opportunity to eat out. However, youâ€™re catering for three people at very different places on the â€˜likes to try different foodsâ€™ spectrum. Where to dine?
Our varying appetites took us to French-inspired CafÃ© Rouge, on Edinburghâ€™s Frederick Street. Â Itâ€™s many years since I last tasted a croque-monsieur here and itâ€™s even more since I was in France, but the twilight ambience, the bistro dÃ©cor and an empty restaurant (that soon changed) save for two elegant women at a corner table drinking red wine, took me right back to the days I was a student in Paris.
At the beginning of this month, CafÃ© Rouge launched a new seasonal set menu, incorporating twists on classic French dishes. Among the starters, a hearty Soupe de Campagne (potato, carrot, haricot beans, leeks and Savoy cabbage); Potted Mackerel PÃ¢tÃ©; and Pork Rilletes. Â After that, Boeuf Parmentier, Moules or Steak Frites, Toulouse Sausage, and a Roast Vegetable Tartine comprise the mains.
The least adventurous eater amongst us was persuaded to try to the pork rilletes (â€˜pate by any other nameâ€™ convinced her) and the boeuf parmentier (â€˜French-style cottage pieâ€™) and really enjoyed both of them. The pork rillettes came with a tasty chutney, and the braised beef was rich and warming.
The seven year old chose from a fairly standard Childrenâ€™s Menu, but his burger was far superior to many of the flat but flabby-looking patties often deemed good enough for smaller diners: moist, thick and nicely â€“ but not scarily â€“ seasoned.
As well as shamelessly picking at all of these dishes (all in the name of research, obviously) I went fishy with the smoked mackerel pate, and the mussels in their creamy white wine sauce â€“ both delicious.
Rather than watch Mr Seven gleefully mix up chocolate ice-cream with a side of jelly beans, we shared our own pudding:Â a Torte Au Chocolat. It looked gorgeous, the centre of it was lovely and chocolately, but the outer ring was overcooked to the texture of dry cake â€“ not bad but disappointingly like Iâ€™d make at home. We could have gone for Apple & Blackberry Crumble or a Rum Baba. Next time weâ€™ll do just that.
There will be a next time. It was an enjoyable, relaxed evening of good, comforting yet still stylish food, and excellent service from Marcela and Tatiana.
CafÃ© Rouge is one of 77 restaurants nationwide and still manages to feel like a one-off.
The seasonal set menu is Â£11.50 for two courses (Â£2 supplement for the steak) with desserts at Â£3.50. (Thereâ€™s also an extensive a la carte from breakfast til evening). The childrenâ€™s menu is Â£6.95 for 3 courses and a drink.
CafÃ© Rouge, 43 Frederick Street, Edinburgh.
Open daily from 7.30am through to late evening.